I read quite a number of golf books over the year, several of which were quite well done. Seeing as every golfer I know loves to get a good book on the sport for Christmas, I’m going to provide a short synopsis and will return to some of them in coming weeks with full reviews.
For your coffee table:
[photopress:wheregolf.jpg,full,alignleft] Where Golf is Great(Jim Finegan): Philly writer Jim Finegan is best known for writing about the U.K. and Ireland. His previous books, like Blasted Heaths and Blessed Green (on Scotland’s golf) are among favourites I drag along with me when I head across the pond. Where Golf is Great is a huge step forward from those previous works. Essentially a massive coffee table-style book, the pictures in this are remarkable and the scope of the book — from the most famous courses to lesser knowns — is tremendous. If you are going to have one book on links golf, this is it.
[photopress:planetgolf_1.jpg,full,alignleft] Planet Golf (Darius Oliver, writer; Dave Scaletti, photographer): I met Scaletti when he came through Toronto to photograph this remarkable book, which is vast in scope. It is hard to imagine anyone pulled this off, but Planet Golf attempts to catalogue the great golf outside of the U.S. It includes several Canadian courses, with fine photos of rarely-seen courses like Capilano, Toronto GC and Devil’s Paintbrush (as well as a write up of Oviinbyrd, which strangely lacks a photo). The great thing about this book is just how much it covers — if you’ve ever wanted to see what Japan’s Naruo Golf Club looks like, and then five minutes later been intrigued to read about Ireland’s European Club, then this is the book for you.
General golf reading:
[photopress:links_of_heaven.jpg,full,alignleft] Links of Heaven (Richard Phinney and Scott Whitley): This is an update of Phinney and Whitley’s previous version, which had become increasingly hard to find and pricey. Links of Heaven is a thorough look at the courses of Ireland with lots of great little details about what else to see and where to stay. Extremely worthwhile if you’re making your Irish pilgrimage.
[photopress:edict.jpg,full,alignleft] The Edict(Bob Cupp): I enjoyed this, but not quite as much as I was expecting to. Cupp, a noted golf designer who has worked with Jack Nicklaus and built the likes of Beacon Hall in Canada, writes a work of fiction about the origins of the game, based on the known history of the sport. It is an interesting concept, but some of the prose was a bit workman-like. Still a breezy little book that had some intriguing elements.
The Match (Mark Frost): Mark Frost is best known for writing The [photopress:thematch_1.jpg,full,alignright]Greatest Game Ever Played, an account of Francis Ouimet’s U.S. Open win at Brookline in 1913. That book was full of vivid accounts and conversations, and made for a wonderfully easy and fun read, even if some critics contend the history isn’t 100% accurate. The Match follows the same style, revolving this time around a match at Cypress Point GC involving Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson in a duel with amateurs Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward. It is vividly told and interesting, with Frost weaving the tale of the four players around the match. And though I disagree with his premise that this match was the end of the amateur era (I think that happened when Bobby Jones retired), I found the story of Harvie Ward to be fascinating. Worth reading just for that.
Golf Balls Don’t Float(Nolan Matthias): A sharp little business book [photopress:golfballsdon__t_1.jpg,full,alignright]published by Calgary author Nolan Matthias links 72 life and business lessons to a complete four-day golf tournament. Sharp and easy to read, Matthias’ work is fun and insightful.
[photopress:disorderly_1.jpg,full,alignleft] A Disorderly Compendium of Golf (Lorne Rubenstein and Jeff Neuman): This book came out a few months ago and was likely as fun to write as it is to read. There’s nothing that links the elements together — consider it more of a clearing house for golf info ranging from the putting course at St. Andrews, to golfers that died on courses — but it is addictive reading. In my mind the great thing about the Disorderly Compendium is that you can pick it up and start reading from any point — or at random if that’s your pleasure.